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Community of Halstead reaches out to family in deadly car accident

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at 10:36 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at 9:14 p.m.

— The letters, scrawled in crayon in the hesitant print of first-graders, are heart wrenching.

“I am sorry. I hope you think of something else,” wrote one child.

Another drew an angel with blue wings and a sad face and penned this message: “I’m sorry. We miss you.”

Dominique Schutte’s classmates at Bentley Primary School wrote the letters to her Friday. Her mother, Diana, and 9-month-old sister, Drianna, were seriously injured Thursday afternoon in a crash at 119th Street West and 53rd Street North. The accident killed her 3-year-old brother, Dyron Schutte. Dominique and a sister in kindergarten were in school at the time of the crash.

“I am thinking of you, Dominique. I miss you,” another letter read.

“You are a good friend to have,” a classmate wrote.

Some of the children didn’t understand that Dyron had died.

Their letters said they hoped he felt better soon, said Joe Gerber, the principal at Halstead High School, whose son is in first grade with Dominique.

The letters illustrate the simple hearts of children and the bonds of a small community that has rallied around the Schutte family.

Diana Schutte coaches volleyball at Halstead Middle School. Her husband, Derek, teaches social studies and coaches girls basketball at Halstead High School.

“When I think of the perfect family, I think of the Derek Schutte family,” Gerber said Friday afternoon, looking over the letters.

A Facebook page established in memory of Dyron Schutte shows a smiling boy with blond hair. The banner photo on the page is of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Halstead community, Gerber said, is “doing as well as you could expect. People miss having Mr. Schutte around today.”

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the accident. Investigators say Diana Schutte, driving her minivan northbound, didn’t stop for a red light and collided with a Kenworth semi truck. Emergency workers transported the family to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, where Dyron later died. Doctors upgraded Diana and Drianna to serious condition Friday. The driver of the semi truck was not injured.

Sheriff Jeff Easter said Thursday that it had appeared that Dyron was ejected from the minivan, but on Friday, the sheriff’s office said that was not the case.

“There is a lot of confusion in that kind of accident,” Capt. Annette Haga said. “In reality, we now know from people who got there first that no one was ejected from the vehicle.”

High school students made banners to hang at the school’s basketball games Friday night against Lindsborg’s Smoky Valley High School.

“We (heart) the Schuttes,” one read.

“I think we’ll have a moment of silence,” Halstead-Bentley schools Superintendent Tom Alstrom said of the games. "We want to try to keep it as normal as possible, even though we know it can’t be that way.”

Halstead, a small community in Harvey County, is reaching out to the Schutte family, Alstrom said.

“The community has really poured out its heart to the family,” he said. “Communities like this really rally around each other and take care of each other.”

The Schuttes had started coaching in Halstead this fall, he said, after moving from Jetmore, northwest of Wichita.

The Halstead school district brought in counselors for students and faculty.

“We met with the kids last night before school was out,” Alstrom said Friday. “It’s a little better today. It’s going to be interesting to see how the basketball games go tonight.”

Gerber said one of the high school language arts teachers had worked with Diana Schutte when Diana was a student teacher.

“It’s safe to say our staff is struggling with it,” Gerber said.

Alstrom said the district brought in counselors for students and staff alike.

“They’ve been a great asset to our school,” Alstrom said of the Schuttes.

The Facebook page said that a fund for the family had been established at Halstead Bank. Donations may be made at any Halstead Bank location – Halstead, Valley Center, Maize and Bentley – or by mail to Halstead Bank, 314 Main, Halstead, KS 67056. Checks should be made payable to the Schutte Family Fund.

Another fund has been set up at Farmers State Bank, P.O. Box 157, Jetmore, KS 67854.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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